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    An Attack on One Is an Attack on All

    By John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney–

    We, like many others in the LGBTIQ community, were outraged when we learned of the Trump administration’s most recent shameless attack on transgender and gender non-binary people. As reported by The New York Times in late October, Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services is leading an effort in essence to deny the very existence of transgender, intersex and genderqueer people and to enshrine discrimination against those who so identify into law.

    According to the Times, the administration wants the following definition of sex to apply to enforcement of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in educational programs that receive federal financial assistance: “Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth … . The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

    This latest development comes on the heels of the Trump administration last year reversing the Obama administration’s protections for transgender students to be able to use the bathroom that matches their gender, and the Trump administration’s attempt to institute a ban on transgender Americans participating in the military.

    Last month, the Trump administration also announced revocation of visas to unmarried partners of foreign LGBTIQ staff of diplomatic missions, the United Nations and other international organizations—even though these LGBTIQ people in many instances face horrific discrimination in their countries of origin. And Trump’s first appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court has already sided twice with opponents of LGBTIQ rights.

    These actions not only further the destructive and divisive policy priorities of Trump, Pence, and other administration officials, but they also appear to be calculated political ploys to appeal to conservative evangelical voters and moneyed interests, essential to Trump and Pence’s political power. With the midterm elections just days away, the latest moves mirror the Bush administration’s 2004 efforts to energize their base through inflammatory attacks on marriage equality.

    Most disturbingly, Yale Professor Jason Stanley has pointed to Trump’s efforts to rollback LGBTIQ rights as an example of what Stanley describes as fascist political tactics in his new book How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.

    In recent interviews with Democracy Now and other news outlets, Stanley describes how “fascism is an ideology based on power and loyalty” to one “hypernationalist” group, creating “divisions between ‘us and ‘them’” and “fear of the other.” By contrast, “liberal democracy is based on liberty and equality” that “require truth.” Stanley explains that “to attack liberal democracy and replace it with power, you need to smash truth,” and require loyalty to a single “hypermasculine and hyperpatriarchal” leader, who “represents that group.” As such, fascist tactics are “harshly homophobic.”

    Stanley identifies ten pillars of fascist political tactics: 1) an appeal to a “mythic past”; 2) propaganda where actual news is “fake news”; 3) “anti-intellectualism,”; 4) “unreality” that leaves only “loyalty”; 5) hierarchy; 6) “victimhood,” where “the dominant group are the greatest victims”; 7) “law and order” where the “out group” are criminals; 8) “fomenting fear about sexuality” and creating “panic around the threat of rape perpetrated by out-group men against in-group women”; 9) “Sodom and Gomorrah,” where “the real values come from the heartland” and the urban dwellers are “decadent”; 10) a social-Darwinian notion that the out group is “lazy” and inferior. In sum: “It’s all about winning” and “power is more important than the truth.”

    Applying Stanley’s analysis, the latest Trump administration effort to define transgender people out of existence under Title IX is a naked effort to “smash truth” and persecute “the other,” whom Trump’s followers could easily see as “decadent” city dwellers, but in reality, of course, pose no threat to anyone. The Trump administration’s effort appears to appeal to a “mythic past,” where LGBTIQ people were neither seen nor heard. It denies scientific fact, reality and the humanity of transgender and gender non-binary people, reinforcing the notion of the asserted superiority of the “hypermasculine” leader, Trump.

    Trump’s actions are part and parcel of decades-long efforts to portray opponents of LGBTIQ dignity and equality as “victims”—be it Anita Bryant’s efforts to “Save the Children” from gay people “recruiting” them; the Prop. 8 campaign’s scaring voters into thinking that their children would be “forced” to learn about “gay marriage” in public school; conservatives’ current attempts to foment panic that transgender people using the restroom that matches their gender will result in attacks on children; or current attempts to characterize people who refuse services to LGBTIQ people under the guise of religion as “victims.”

    Many Republican and other conservative leaders have laid the groundwork for Trump’s current words and deeds. Indeed, nothing describes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s political approach better than Professor Stanley’s insights: “It’s all about winning” and “power is more important than the truth.”

    But perhaps the gravest danger Stanley warns against is the normalization of fascist political tactics, writing that normalization “transform(s) the morally extraordinary into the ordinary.” Now is the time to continue naming and speaking up in every way against every element of Trump’s fascist political tactics to amass power and authority.

    Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis, together for over three decades, were plaintiffs in the California case for equal marriage rights decided by the California Supreme Court in 2008. Their leadership in the grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA contributed in 2015 to making same-sex marriage legal nationwide.